It’s true, the weather really does affect joint and arthritis pain: Study

Oct 25, 2019
Around 350 million people globally are living with one or more types of arthritis, and it impacts around four million Australians. Source: Getty

It seems the old saying ‘When your joints all start to ache, Rainy weather is at stake’, has its basis in fact, as a new study has confirmed that pain really does get worse on miserable days. The study, published in npj Digital Medicine, found people with chronic pain conditions are more likely to feel pain on days that are humid and windy.

In the study, researchers from The University of Manchester recruited 13,000 people with arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine and neuropathic pain from across the UK. Participants were asked to record daily pain levels over the course of six months via their smartphones.

“Weather has been thought to affect symptoms in patients with arthritis since Hippocrates,” Professor Will Dixon, who led the study, said. “Around three quarters of people living with arthritis believe their pain is affected by the weather.

“Yet despite much research examining the existence and nature of this relationship, there remains no scientific consensus. We hoped that smartphones would allow us to make greater progress by recruiting many more people, and tracking daily symptoms across seasons.”

The results showed that people were 20 per cent more likely to suffer from pain on humid and windy days. According to the research, the most important factor associated with worsening pain is high humidity. However, the researchers found no link between temperature and pain, or rain and pain.

“The analysis showed that on a damp and windy days with low pressure the chances of experiencing more pain, compared to an average day, was around 20 per cent,” Dixon said. “This would mean that, if your chances of a painful day on an average weather day were 5 in 100, they would increase to 6 in 100 on a damp and windy day.

He added that the research could be important for patients in the future, explaining that: “Given we can forecast the weather, it may be possible to develop a pain forecast knowing the relationship between weather and pain.

“This would allow people who suffer from chronic pain to plan their activities, completing harder tasks on days predicted to have lower levels of pain. The dataset will also provide information to scientists interested in understanding the mechanisms of pain, which could ultimately open the door to new treatments.”

While it’s easy to think of arthritis as one big health issue causing joint inflammation and stiffness, the truth is there are more than 100 different types of arthritis. This alone makes treating the condition difficult. Around 350 million people globally are living with one or more types of arthritis, and it impacts around four million Australians.

Meanwhile, Dr Stephen Simpson, director of Versus Arthritis, which funded the study, said: “Will Dixon and his team and their collaborators have shown a remarkable spirit of innovation, pushing new boundaries to bring people with arthritis into research.

“This research will help us understand the bigger picture of the complexity of pain caused by arthritis and how people with the condition can take control of it.”

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and information purposes only. It does not take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. It is not personalised health advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any decisions about your health or changes to medication, diet and exercise routines you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from a medical professional.

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